All about Her...

The title of this post caused me some ambivalence at first.

The mere mention of Iraqi women in my mind brings out such contradictory feelings and paradoxical images, leading me into a momentarily confusion.

Again this is where the personal, subjective and the political, objective experiences overlap.

Had I written a similar post with the same title, let's say 20 years, or 10 years ago, I am certain that the images associated, would not have been a combination of such opposites as they are today, in my mind and in my reality as an Iraqi woman.

I will try to clarify myself to the reader...

When I think of Iraqi women, just as when I think of Iraq as a whole...I always have the images that pop up in my mind - The Before and the After. Before 2003 and after 2003. It is really as simple as that.

Before 2003.

No it was not perfect. But it was getting there...

Putting aside, the Iran-Iraq war and its widows. Putting aside the 1st Gulf war and its share of more widows and D.U deformed babies. Putting aside post 1991 and the embargo years of struggling and endurance, years that would make Superman look like a fucking midget, put them aside....

Of course they had its toll on Iraqis and Iraqi women in particular. We are not bionic women, but then, when I think again - we are bionic women.

How many of your pampered, spoilt, nagging, empty females would have put up with ?

How many of your women would have put up with so many deaths, so much grief and bereavement, so much loss, so much destitution and for so many years ? My bet is not much. Paper tigers all of you.

I want to tell you about the Iraqi woman. I can tell you all about the Iraqi woman from Inanna until today. I can tell you all about Her.

I will make exceptions though.

I will NOT include the earlier generation, the earlier generation of MTV and Facebook. I will neither include the earlier generation who lived in the UK, America or Iran or anywhere else...These for me DON'T count. I consider them empty recipients and you can just about fill them up with anything you like. They don't represent Iraqi women and they certainly don't represent me.

Nor will I include the trash that landed from Iran, nor the trash that emerged in the 90's with Iranian backing and funding. The masochistic, self flagellating, misogynistic, backward females, brainwashed by Qum. They are not part of us either.

I deliberately chose not to include the two above categories. Because the two above categories are a product of the Occupation.

Not only are they a product of the Occupation, but they have been instrumental in it too.

For me, they are not considered Iraqis at all. Even though, they desperately try to get onto the Iraqi bandwagon, to gain some sympathy or a reputation. For me they are the mental rejects of England, America and Iran...

Why mental rejects ? Because they have lost all dignity...As simple as that.

Dignity - that word again. Oh, what a bothersome word. Yet, very à propos.

If there is one thing that characterizes a true Iraqi woman, it is dignity. Dignity regardless of her class, status, educational level, or religion and in some cases (albeit rare ones) her sect.

Inanna had dignity. The dignity of a Goddess. It is still there in the collective unconscious, even though it is hiding behind grief, resignation and black Abayas.

And this is where the personal becomes a bank of treasures...A storage room of collective memories from which I constantly draw strength and more dignity.

Each one of us has had some influential figure in their lives, a mentor, an example, a teacher and a lesson....

Mine were the women in my family.

The first one was my great grandmother - Layla. A woman of great beauty and strength.
She had lost many of her off springs, and she kept repeating "the worst thing in life is not losing a child, it is losing your sanity." She had understood early on, that sanity was limited, but insanity was limitless...

Another one was my grandmother. A so-called illiterate woman, forced into marriage at a young age. But by God she was no crumbling cookie. Her self defense was the plastic pair of slippers that she would voluntarily throw in the face of any abusive bastard...And her art, was her story telling.

Then came my mother. An intelligent sweet soul, loyal and enduring. But by God, when she reached her limits, no one could stand in her face...and remain intact.

Then, there were my aunts. Some of them were smooth talkers, some were not. But all had a core they could fall back onto. A true strength, not aggressive but not yielding...hard to explain.

Then there are my female cousins. Sharp, bright and very aware. A product of a willing emancipation. Veiled or not, did not matter. They knew what they wanted and were clear about what they stood for as women.

And if I dig deep into my memory, I can add a few more...

There were also my mother's friends. Sophisticated, creative, beautiful women. Some were artists, some were writers, some were poets, and some were just themselves...

Sure of their femininity but without much boasting. A calm self assurance that did not need mini-skirts or tons of make-up. Contrary let's say to other Middle Eastern females...

I had the impression then, that they were steady and at the same time mysterious... I felt it to be a very interesting combination. A very potent one.

I also remember when my parents took me to other Arab countries, like Lebanon, Syria and Egypt...I felt the women there were too revealing, not just physically, but also emotionally, making themselves preys, easy preys...

My first impressions were not all that wrong. There is something desperate about an Egyptian, Lebanese or even Palestinian, Syrian or Jordanian woman, that would you not find in an Iraqi woman. Unless she has become the prototype, product of the Occupation.

I am well aware that this may not go down all too well in "women's solidarity" contexts or contests, but I care not. I say the Truth the way I see it.

For instance, I take proverbs or popular sayings as metaphors or indicators of the state of things.

In Egypt for instance you have a popular proverb (mainly by women) that says "Dhil ragel ahssan min dhil hayta". Literally translated - "the shadow of a man is better than that of a wall".

In Iraq, we have or had a very popular saying amongst women and it went that way
"Al chalb aboo baytain, ma yenrad" - Literally translated, "a dog (man) that belongs to two homes, is not wanted/needed".

The first one refers to the desperateness for any man, the second refers to options, choices...and Freedom.

And this is where the difference lies.

And I have used popular proverbs, in a deliberate fashion, to make my point. I suppose you got it by now. Right ?

What am I trying to tell you here ?

I am trying to convey to you, the essence of Her, of Inanna, of the woman in a black Abaya...I want to demystify your preconceptions. I want to tear away at your myths. I want to do away with your stereotypes...I want to tell you all about Her.

I want to tell you about the Iraqi woman before you occupied and forcibly penetrated her in the name of Freedom.

I want to tell you all about her. The memories I have kept of her. Her reality...

I want to tell you all about Her.

She was a poetess well before your Keats or Chaucer. She was a warrior well before your Joan of Arc. She was all of a lover well before your Lady Chatterley's. She was also a Queen well before your prudish Victoria.

Sorry can't include America here, you had nothing then.

And above all, she was a Goddess. A Goddess of Might and Power, of Sacrifice and Endurance, of Love and Forgiveness, of Sensuality and Wrath...When you were not even conceived nor born.

Yes, that's Her.

And she carried it on. Quietly, ever so quietly...

P.S. There was one Man who knew it and understood, having been an avid reader of History himself. For more on Her, from the great - Saddam Hussein - read here.

Painting :Iraqi female artist, Betool Fekaiki.


Anonymous said…
Beautiful, Layla ... thank you.


"Al chalb aboo baytain, ma yenrad" - Literally translated, "a dog (man) that belongs to two homes, is not wanted/needed."

Translated: dignity and self-respect.

In solidarity with you and all beautiful, dignified Iraqi women.
Anonymous said…
Yes, the great Saddam Hussein who had 4 wives for himself and turned a blind eye on his psycho son's compulsive raping of innocent girls.

Some feminist !!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous said…
jeffrey is one jealous, shallow, morally (and economically hehehehe) bankrupt piece of shit.

god bless true iraqi women, may they stay proud and hopeful like beacons against the storm and may their children draw strength from their example to fight on until victory.

r.i.p. dear wonderful leader, chivalrous champion of arab womanhood.
Anonymous said…
Bravo, very lovely piece.
Anonymous said…
arigg here ~ i think of the totally modern americanized females I know - and there may be a few (being like 2 or 3) females I know who could have gone thru what true Iraqi women have gone thru with any measure of grace or diginity - but most all american females would be flopping about, losing their minds and hearts, and ending up being empty shells with no hope ~ i'm glad i'm not like them. i don't socialize, i don't want to. I just stay home - i don't want to associate with those sleeping sheep females in and around me in this american town - nope nope nope - that ain't happening. I socialize with nature and my few people and that's good enough for me. peace out layla - i've been praying lately to the energy of TRUTH - there's my thought for the day. peace, too.
Anonymous said…
You never called Ishtar by her other name before... How come ?
mojoe said…
Layla ! Keep up the good work !! Always my kind of woman !! Little Dear....where r u ??
Anonymous said…
Mojoe! Gosh, it's nice to see you after such a long time! Where have you been? I never see you at our regular meeting place any more? Why have you just disappeared?!!

I hope that all's well with you. Please get in touch the regular way? I look forward to that.

Sorry Layla!
Anonymous said…
This is why I love your blog, wonderful pieche Layla comme d'habitude.
Anonymous said…

What will you do with those "Westernized" and "Persianized" Iraqi women after the liberation ?

Drag them to pillory, shave their hair and kick them senseless like in Europe in 1945 (which they would deserve), or will you adopt the forgiveness & rehabilitation formula ?
Anonymous said…
Saddam Hussein in his immense love and faith in people and especially in the Feminine in spite of his early misfortunes was the living proof of Man's ability to tame and mould Destiny and the living rebuttal of Freud's theories.
Anonymous said…
I want to puke....NUR
Layla Anwar said…
Dear Little Deer,

Thank you, as always. I was sure you would relate to the Iraqi proverb. LOL.
Lots of love.
Layla Anwar said…

First of all, Saddam was not married to 4 women. And even if he was, at least it was all out in the open, not like some hypocritical American son of a bitch keeping a mistress in the obscurity.
Layla Anwar said…

Many thanks, very nice comment.
Layla Anwar said…
American woman,

Thank you.
Layla Anwar said…

Hello and thanks for stopping by. Great comment. I can relate in more than one way to some of the stuff you wrote - especially the bit about nature and a very few people...
Layla Anwar said…

Because Inanna and Ishtar and some say Lilith are one and the same and I really prefer the name Ishtar to Inanna... That's all.
Layla Anwar said…

Hey ! Are you the same Mojoe I think you are. Not Iraqi mojo for sure. Long time no see, hope you are well...and thanks for stopping by.
Layla Anwar said…

Hello and nice to see you again. Thank you for your kind words.
Layla Anwar said…

What do you think I should do ?
Layla Anwar said…

True. To my knowledge, no other Arab leader spoke so extensively about Women's participation in society and its development.

Please elaborate on the Freud's rebuttal bit...
Layla Anwar said…

You are always puking ---- on yourself. So what's new ?! Keep doing what you do best and hopefully you will drown in your own vomit.
Anonymous said…
Re Freud's rebuttal: despite having been an unwanted, unloved, humiliated (and maybe worse...) child, he did not grow hating all the women because of his bitter mother, nor all the men because of his violent step-father, but succeeded brilliantly in turning "lead" into "gold", anger and sadness into strength and wisdom, injustice into fairness, misfortune into deep understanding of others.

If all humans had his Faith in life, shrinks would go bankrupt.
Anonymous said…
"What do you think I should do ?"

I think you should punish harshly those found guilty of collaborationism and/or crimes against humanity according to the by then restored Iraqi Law.

But I also think you should keep by your principles regardless of your feelings and keep the doors of forgiveness open to every missed tessera of the Iraqi mosaic who wishes to be part of it again and proves seriously repented and willing to work hard at the country's service.

I won't say your children, but maybe your grand-children and surely your great-grand children have a sacred right to live in a society where all of these shameful sectarian and ethnic animosities ignited by the West and Iran are a definitively closed chapter and Saddam Hussein's interrupted dream of unity and egalitarism has become a tangible reality.
Layla Anwar said…

I am afraid I will have to disagree with you on your take on Freud. You seem to idealize him way too much, and this comment section is not the place to debate about Freudian or neo Freudian thought. Sure, he has made great contributions to the "sciences" in particular the "neurological Sciences", however, your jumping to call him an illuminated one especially vis à vis the "woman question" is far fetched. Had you been intimate with Freud's biography, you would have realized that a good chunk of Freudian psychoanalysis is quite misogynistic. Even though I do concede that the dynamics of psychoanaylsis may not be. Anyways this is open for debate and as I said this is not the place for it.
Layla Anwar said…

Been thinking about the concept of Punishment. If God works through people, and I believe HE/SHE/IT does, then punishment is called for. I don't have the patience to wait till judgement day.

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